GOLF: Mickelson ends longest drought with thrilling playoff win in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The shot through a gap in the trees only he could see. The two birdies he had to have when time was running out.

Phil Mickelson finally looked like the Lefty of old Sunday in the Mexico Championship, especially when a final round of pressure, possibilities and dramatic shots that kept the crowd buzzing finally ended at Chapultepec Golf Club.

He was posing with the trophy.

For the first time in 102 tournaments around the world, dating to the summer of 2013 when he won the British Open at Muirfield, the 47-year-old Mickelson showed he still had the stuff to beat players who weren’t even born when he collected the first of his 43 victories on the PGA Tour.

“This is a very meaningful win,” Mickelson said after beating Justin Thomas in a playoff. “I can’t really put it into words given the tough times over the last four years, and the struggle to get here, and knowing that I was able to compete at this level but not doing it.

“To finally break through and to have this validation means a lot to me.”

Mickelson, who closed with a 5-under 66, was at his best over the back nine with as many as six players still in the mix.

Suddenly two shots behind when Thomas holed out from 119 yards for eagle on the 18th hole, Mickelson played a high-risk shot through the smallest of gaps in the trees to escape with par on the 14th hole. That’s when he saw the score, and he followed with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th and a 20-foot birdie on the 16th.

Thomas, who won last week in a playoff at the Honda Classic, capped off a 62-64 weekend with more clutch play, no shot bigger than his sand wedge that bounced behind the flag and spun back into the cup on his final hole for eagle .

The playoff — — the sixth in the last eight weeks on the PGA Tour — lasted only one hole on the par-3 17th, where Thomas made bogey for the second time.

His gap wedge was too long, his chip too weak. Mickelson’s 18-foot birdie putt rimmed around the edge of the cup, and Thomas missed his par from just inside 10 feet.

The disappointment was tempered only by his start — Thomas was 11 shots back going into the weekend — and by the guy who beat him.

“Man, there’s nothing for me to hang my head about,” Thomas said. “To even have a chance to win this golf tournament after where I was through 18, through 36 holes, I’m very proud of myself. Obviously, I would have loved to drum him out there in that playoff, but I’m just happy for him. … He’s playing some great golf.”